“What About Bob?”

Published 15 Mar 2017

The movie “What About Bob?” tells of a Dr. Leo Marvin who is well known because of his book, “Baby Steps”. The story unfolds when Dr. Marvin is leaving on vacation and Bob has become a new patient of his. Bob has had several other doctors; one has even quit his job and is moving to get away from him. It seems that Bob is quite a nice and personable person but has many paralyzing phobias that he thinks requires constant attention from his doctors. Just after his first visit Bob contacts Leo twice and believes that he just can’t make it without his doctor. Leo makes no doubt about it that Bob will have to use a different doctor while he is away and that he will not be available. Bob so scared after the doctor leaves that he fakes his death and calls the answering service, Leo’s exchange, in an effort to get the doctors address while he is on vacation. Because Bob is so nice and it seems everyone just loves him get the address and follows the doctor on vacation.

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When Bob arrives in New Hampshire he is met by a very upset Leo and told he must go back. After waiting in a coffee shop Bob gets the attention of the owners who pity him and take him in. The owners suggest that Bob should look to Leo as a friend instead of a client and after awhile even Leo’s own family is beginning to like having Bob around. Soon the family is rallying around Bob and alienating Leo who seems to be having a breakdown and an unhealthy obsession with his interview he is going to be having with Good Morning America on his newly released book. Eventually Leo takes desperate measures and tries to commit Bob, but feels badly and picks him up only to leave him in the middle of the road. He has a flat on the way home but by the time he gets there Bob is waiting and his wife planned a surprise party that all together seemed to push him over the edge (Oz, 1991).

There were many boundary dilemmas that one could see all through the show. In my opinion Leo should not have agreed to see Bob until after his vacation. This would have been better for Bob who after meeting Leo in the movie was deserted by Leo. Especially with patients with obsessive compulsive behavior at first there should be a continuous flow of therapy between the therapist and patient. The second dilemma was when the answering service gave out his address. It should have contacted Leo to let him know what the circumstances were and then he could have judged if they needed him to interrupt his vacation. Bob’s interaction with Leo’s family was a huge dilemma.

As a professional we should always remember to keep work and home separate. Without this separation you cannot ensure ethical practices and you cannot hold a secure therapeutic frame. Both are essential for effective counseling and therapy. “Therapeutic boundaries and their management can give rise to difficult dilemmas for counselors. Appropriate boundaries are a means of meeting the clients need for safety, not simply in order to be able to explore painful aspects of their lives, but also to ensure ethical practice that protects the client from abuse by the therapist” (Symons & Wheeler, 2005).


  • Mattaini, C. & Christine, L. T. (2007). Foundation of social work practice: A graduate text, Washington, D.C.: NASW Press.
  • Oz, F. (Director), Ziskin, L. (Producer), Williams, B. (co-Producer). (1991). What About Bob? (Videocassette)
  • Symons, C. & Wheeler, S. (2005, March). Counsellor conflict in managing the frame: Delemmas and decisions, Counseling & Psychotherapy Research, 5(1), p.19-26
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